Pekin native ready to tee it up in front of Illini fans, family.
SILVIS — D.A. Points has a man crush on Mike Small.
The Illinois graduate — who will tee off at 7:40 a.m. Thursday in the John Deere Classic — gushed profusely about the Illinois men’s golf coach and his alma mater during his media obligations in the Quad Cities.
“Mike’s a great player. He’s a hard worker. He’s a great motivator,” said Points, who graduated from Illinois in 1999 before Small assumed his head coaching duties at Illinois in 2000. “He’s genuinely a good person, and all the guys who have ever played for him respect him and love him.”
That doesn’t always happen in college golf, according to the 36-year-old Pekin native.
“Most college kids don’t like their college golf coach,” Points said. “When he earns that respect, that says a lot about Mike. He’s done a great job. Illinois is very, very fortunate to have him. I keep trying to plug him and pump him up and let him know how great he is.”
Good, if not great at times, is an apt way to describe Points on the PGA Tour in 2013. He won his first event since the 2011 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in late March when he emerged with a victory at the Shell Houston Open.
Using his mother’s putter, no less. Much was made about the fact at the time.
Points first tried out the Ping Anser his mom played with when he was 12 years old. He won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2004 with the same putter.
“It has some good vibes, so when I pulled it out in Houston, it looked good,” Points said. “The greens were good and fast there, and since it’s an older putter, it’s a little lighter. I thought it would be a good match, and sure enough it was. It’s hard to get rid of it after it’s treated you that good. You’ve got to keep it around for a while.”
Points hopes he sticks around for a while at TPC Deere Run. The 7,257-yard course hasn’t treated him too kindly. He’s missed the cut in six of his seven appearances at the Deere Classic.
“It’s a putting contest. That’s why Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson have won a lot because they make everything,” Points said in reference to the two men who have combined to win the last four Deere Classic titles. “I shoot under par every time I come here. It’s just not enough under par to see the weekend. Now that my confidence in my putting is up ... hopefully I can win the putting contest this week.”
Points said he has between 40 and 50 tickets at the will-call window waiting for family and friends at the Deere Classic.
“I get to come back and see some friends I don’t get to see very often,” Points said. “It’s obviously as close to Pekin as I will probably ever get to for a PGA Tour event. My parents are going to come back this year, which is nice. My mom’s almost 70, and my dad’s 71, so it’s nice for them to come back and see their son play at a tournament that we kind of only dreamed about as a kid.”
Friday is Illini Day at TPC Deere Run. Points will fit right in with the contingent of Illinois fans who make the trek to the Quad Cities.
“I’ve got my Orange and Blue,” he said. “I have a white Illinois belt at home that I forgot to bring, so my wife is going to send that to me. We’re going to really do it up. Hopefully we’ll put on a good show, and same thing with the other boys for the Illini fans.”
Points joins Stricker, a three-time champion at the Deere Classic, Luke Guthrie, Scott Langley and Joe Affrunti as the other former Illini in the field.
“We don’t have any competition yet, but I’m certainly going to try to drum some up between Scott, Luke and Steve,” Points said. “Maybe the old guys will take on the young guys, or something like that. It’s going to be a great day.”